Forensic Psych

Spring Hope Recovery: Making a Difference One Family at a Time

This is my latest work. I wrote it based on an interview I did with a friend. As always, it is my work, so please don’t plagiarize or steal. If you use this for any reason, please cite it properly! Thank you and hope you enjoy!

 

Spring Hope Recovery: Making a Difference One Family at a Time
Where there is hope, there is life. This is quite an uplifting motto for one small counseling business in eastern Texas known as Spring Hope Recovery. Martin Phillips, the CEO of this up and coming business, is a Licensed Clinical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) and family counselor who works with individuals and families who have been a victim of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and of course, substance abuse (M.D. Phillips, personal communication, October 2012). Phillips has worked with many individuals and families who have been victimized in all sorts of ways because they or someone they love has abused some sort of substance. Working with victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and substance abuse the most, Phillips spends much of his time these days educating victims on how to deal with grief and the impact that substance abuse has on families. I have known Phillips for a while now and have heard him talk about the impact that his line of work has on him. I have heard some of his stories and I have seen him building up his business; beginning out of his passion to help those who are struggling from the negative impact of substance abuse or other types of abuse born out of substance use and abuse. I interviewed Phillips on a Sunday evening, one of the only times he has free during the week, via an internet phone service, Skype, in order to learn more specifically about the impact that substance abuse has on victims, how it leads to victimization, and how helping people recover from their addiction impacts victims and victimizations. Ultimately, substance abuse often leads to victimizations because individuals lose their ability to understand or lose their ability to care what they do; they lose their inhibitions. Substance abuse often leads to victimizations of all kinds: physical, verbal, emotional, or various forms of neglect. By helping an individual to recover from their addictions they can be released from this cycle of substance abuse and violence.
Phillips defines victimization as something that encompasses many areas, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and neglect (M.D. Phillips, personal communication, October 2012). Victimization is not only something said or done to a person, but rather can also involve, in many cases, what is not done, such as neglecting to pay bills, to work, to attend family functions or sporting events, etc. When a person is so involved in his or her own addiction to a substance, he or she often victimizes loved ones. He may say negative things to his wife and children, he may physically or sexually abuse them, or he may begin to neglect his duties as a husband and father, such as quitting his job, not paying the bills, not attending family functions or his children’s sporting or academic events. After a while, he becomes so wrapped up in his desire to use the substance that he stops caring about anything else, says Phillips. This has a profound impact on the family dynamic as well as on each individual involved, creating a cycle of substance abuse and violence and/or neglect because the person who is abusing becomes concerned with finding and using the substance rather than focusing on the needs and wants of their family, like love, affection, financial stability, the need for a positive role model, etc.
Upon further discussion of the cycle of substance abuse and violence and/or neglect seen in his cases, Phillips states that this cycle does indeed exist and it often seems to come from something surprisingly biological or genetic (M.D. Phillips, personal communication, October 2012). The use of a substance manipulates and changes the chemical composition of the brain, so if a person is predisposed to violence and they use a substance and their inhibitions are down, they are likely to demonstrate that predisposition. He says that this is why so many crimes, like domestic violence, are committed. These substances basically remove a person’s conscience and allow them to do things that they would not normally do, or allow some sort of predisposition to be revealed in that person’s behavior. Another aspect of this cycle is anger, so I asked Phillips what role anger plays as a cause of victimizations in situations like these. Anger plays a huge role in that oftentimes the substance abuser, whose inhibitions are already down, struggles to control what he says or does because anger also further lowers his inhibitions and blinds him from reason. Anger demoralizes the victim. The abuser uses a substance and his inhibitions are down, he then gets angry and lashes out and abuses the victim, who is demoralized, and retreats further into denial or into the imaginary where they do not confront the abuser about the abuse or his addiction, therefore allowing the cycle to continue.
Phillips describes a scenario that exemplifies this cycle in action (M.D. Phillips, personal communication, October 2012). A father is an alcoholic and he does not pay attention to his child anymore, except to degrade her or to abuse her physically. She may begin to try to compensate for this lack of attention and/or adapt to help tolerate the pain of the abuse and neglect by becoming an overachiever in school and/or creating an imaginary world she can escape to when times are hard. She may think that by getting straight A’s she can receive positive attention or recognition from him or others. She may potentially believe that if she does things perfectly, the way he likes them to be done, or does really well in school that he will not abuse her or that she may receive the attention, recognition and affection she needs elsewhere. Phillips says that often young children will create an imaginary or alternate world where they can escape while abuse or neglect is occurring in the home. A victim may participate in coping mechanisms such as these, however, these manners of adapting or coping are not healthy for the child, but instead are rather maladaptive. The victim is often in a lot of pain and deals with a lot of uncertainty in his or her life because they do not want to blame their abuser or say that their abuser is a bad person, even though they do know that they are treated badly. This often leads to denial that the abuser has an issue, which is the biggest issue that a typical victim of a substance abuser struggles with, according to Phillips. The victim develops these maladaptive coping skills and the abuse continues, both of the victim herself and the substance of choice, thus aiding in enabling the abuser rather than helping him. To be clear, there is no victim blaming here. The victim is in this position because of their abuser and the cycle that occurs because of the abuser. But, what if a victim of abuse is a substance abuser herself? Phillips says that there is oftentimes a stigma associated with victims who abuse substances.
Victims who abuse substances are typically viewed in one of 2 ways according to Phillips (M.D. Phillips, personal communication, October 2012). They are either considered no different than other substance abusers or they are sympathized with because of the abuse inflicted upon them. Others may often look at these victims as though they brought the abuse upon themselves. Phillips says that the stigma is clearly not true, however. If victims are substance abusers, they are using it to cope with the abuse that they have and are encountering. Phillips believes that whether he is counseling a victim who is a substance abuser or the family affected by the substance abuser, or the victimizer who is a substance abuser, he must help them change their self perceptions because they are often distorted and painful.
In order to help a person recover from their dependency on a substance, Phillips uses several methods. He helps them build on their strengths, gives them new ways of coping, empowering them, and he also has them use positive affirmations. Phillips believes in helping the substance abusers develop a spiritual foundation, by having them journal, meditate, and pray in order to help them fill the void where the substance was and fill it with God instead. By doing this, it gives them hope, especially because they have a higher power to look to for strength. Phillips also teaches the victims about how to deal with what they have gone through and empowers them by having them pretend that their abuser is in the room, therefore allowing them to voice their hurt and feelings to the abuser as though he was really present in the room. He also educates victims and families about how substance abuse affects families. Phillips says that, normally, when people are recovering from their addiction, the percentage of victimization goes down. If they return to abusing the substance, chances are strong that they will victimize their loved ones again. By helping people recover from their addiction, Phillips can also help the abuser come to terms with the abuse that he has caused, or can help the victim come to terms with her own victimization. By helping an abuser recover from his addiction, he is helping them to learn that there are better coping mechanisms and helping them to control their anger. By helping victims recover from their substance abuse, he is helping them to perceive themselves as a survivor rather than a victim and helping them to feel good about themselves; filling them with hope and empowerment.
Phillips says that despite all the help, empowerment and hope he attempts to provide to the victims and to the recovering substance abusers, he sometimes struggles to get them to see that there is a different, normal way of living available to them outside of their addiction (M.D. Phillips, personal communication, October 2012). They often forget what it is like in the everyday world without the substance and they fear losing the lifestyle that they have become accustomed to living. It is difficult to defeat this learned behavior in which they have learned unrealistic patterns of immediate gratification. However difficult these may be to change, it is not altogether impossible through an effective means to change, such as the education that Phillips provides.
By teaching substance abusers new ways of coping and teaching them how to manage their anger, among all the other skills Phillips provides, the rate of victimization is likely going to decrease. By helping the substance abuser, Phillips is indirectly helping victims, but he goes one step further and also provides services for victims where he empowers them and teaches them new ways of coping as well if they have developed maladaptive coping skills. All in all, Phillips provides services that benefit both sides and helps to end the cycle of substance abuse and violence. He is likely making a great impact on the community, and they are impacting him as well. Phillips says that it is often very difficult hearing and seeing some of the things that he hears and sees from victims. It saddens him deeply, but he has a passion to help these people and he believes that God gave him this passion for these people, so his business continues to grow and he continues to make a difference in the lives of victims and substance abusers from all walks of life. As long as Phillips is using his God-given passion to educate and help others at Spring Hope Recovery, people and families will again be hopeful, the cycles of substance abuse and violence will be broken, and these types of victims will be able to live their lives without further victimizations. Spring Hope Recovery is making a difference one family and one life at a time!

Appendix
Martin Phillips Interview Questions
1. What exactly do you do at Spring Hope Recovery? What services do you provide?
2. What kinds of victims do you work with the most?
3. What are the issues that type of victim seems to struggle with the most when you talk to them?
4. How does substance abuse play a role in their victimization?
5. Do you think substance use and abuse is the biggest cause of victimization? Why or why not?
6. Do you believe there is a cycle of violence and substance use and abuse? Explain more about why you do and how it works (if you do).
7. What role does anger play as a cause of victimization in this type of victim?
8. Is there a stigma against victims who abuse substances? If so, elaborate on what you know about this.
9. How does helping a person recover from their dependency on a substance help them to be able to move on and/or come to terms with their own victimization or the victimization of others that they caused?
10. What is the hardest part of working with this kind of victim? What do you have the hardest time getting them to understand?
11. What sort of impact does working with this kind of victim have on you personally? How does it affect you?

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